Schools: Substitute Teachers

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP 3:15, 6 December 2021

I thank the Member for her question. The employing authorities are working closely with schools to address that issue. The Northern Ireland Substitute Teacher Register (NISTR) has between 7,000 and 8,000 teachers registered. However, there are challenges in that maybe 3,000 of them are on longer-term or temporary contracts. It is incumbent on schools and the supply teacher to ensure that NISTR is notified if they are in employment, because it creates a challenge for principals when they have to sit at the last minute ringing around 70 to 100 individuals to see whether they are available to come into their schools.

As I said in a previous response, in the EA's emergency resourcing team, a designated named officer for human resources works closely with schools to try to address the issue. I have looked at other suggested options to see if we could enhance the register. We have looked at the options of student teachers, retired teachers, staff in the Education and Training Inspectorate and the EA, and volunteers. Last year, the Department put out a call for volunteers who could supervise in schools, and there were 1,000 applicants. In fact, I applied to do holiday cover if it was required. We have been looking at various options. Some of the options are a bit more limited, particularly that of student teachers, who have had their own training disrupted or may already be in workplaces. The flexibility to second them is a challenge.